(left) Research Triangle Institute was established in 1958 when the Park was nothing but “pine trees and possums.” (right) Today, more than 2,000 people work in RTI International’s RTP headquarters, with nearly 3,000 more working in 24 regional offices around the word.
Appeared as part of Research North Carolina, a sponsored section, in the July 2019 issue
By RTI International
For 60 years, RTI International’s commitment to improving the human condition has positively impacted lives around the world. Since its beginning as a small nonprofit research institute nestled in the longleaf pines of Research Triangle Park, RTI has sought to address the world’s most critical problems with science-based solutions in pursuit of a better future.
In its early years, RTI’s projects honed in on areas of importance to North Carolina, including applied statistics and environmental research. Today, RTI’s domestic work spans the country, informing health policy to improve all aspects of human health, addressing the opioid crisis using comprehensive, coordinated strategies and employing multi-method approaches to reform areas of criminal justice and more.
In 1961, RTI became international with its first project overseas in Nigeria. Today, as an organization of nearly 5,000 people, RTI implements and conducts research on hundreds of diverse projects in countries ranging from Guatemala and Indonesia to Nepal and Uganda.
Much of this international work has been funded by the United States Agency for International Development and is predicated on helping governments in developing nations build infrastructures – water quality, energy efficiency, agricultural production, sanitation, pollution, literacy and health care – and optimize the allocation of resources. RTI also works closely with private-sector clients, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on issues including HIV/AIDS prevention, air pollution exposure and neglected tropical diseases.
This type of work would not be possible without RTI’s mindset of developing close client relationships to execute ideas that better people’s lives. Last year, RTI experts in fields as varied as maternal and child health, unmanned aerial vehicles and food security implemented nearly 4,000 projects around the world, satisfying 1,200 public- and private-sector clients.
RTI seeks to continuously learn from its clients. The relationships developed across various sectors serve as catalysts that broaden RTI scientists’ perspectives and understanding of major challenges, which opens doors for new ideas, technologies and multidisciplinary solutions. Today, our researchers develop innovation frameworks to help organizations achieve peak performance and work with others to advance early-stage technologies into the marketplace.
Although RTI’s reach is global, its origins are local. They can be traced to North Carolina leaders in business, state government and academia, including its founding partners: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina State University.
In the 1950s while other parts of the country boomed economically, North Carolina fell behind. The state lost people with advanced degrees from area universities who decided they had to go elsewhere to pursue their passions and earn a living. But area leaders saw the possibilities of the Piedmont region.
They envisioned the soon-to-be-named Research Triangle Park as an area that could rival technological and industrial development in places like Boston’s northern corridor and California’s Silicon Valley. They set forth to cultivate the region’s most promising minds and make the future research park a destination for scientists from around the country and world.
In 2019, on the main campus of its global headquarters in RTP, RTI continues to foster a collaborative environment and harness an innovative spirit to support scientific rigor, achieve technical proficiency and solve complex problems. Sixty years after its founding, science continues to be the vehicle through which RTI fulfills its mission.
With more than 2,000 people working in RTP – and nearly 3,000 more working in 24 offices around the world – RTI is an institute without walls. Its scientists seek to break down barriers and build on the achievements of its legacy, including the advancement of research in cancer therapeutics, biomedical addiction and substance use.
RTI leaders acknowledge that as the world rapidly changes, so will the role of the research institute. The one certainty is an ongoing and vital need for a research institute dedicated to tackling the most important problems confronting society. And that is a role RTI is uniquely positioned to fill.
To learn more about the compelling history of North Carolina’s first groundbreaking research institute, visit RTI’s special anniversary website, 60.rti.org.